ByStander, Events

DONT WALK Returns to Its Roots

DONT WALK Charity Fashion show was founded in 2001 as a response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City. Eighteen years on, the show continues to use art as a medium to counter inequalities and now thrives as one of the most anticipated and esteemed events in the social calendar.

The 2019 Executive Director, Maria Cecília Coelho, and Creative Director, Theodora Chia, describe DONT WALK as a platform and hub for the arts with an underlying aim to support charity. To put it simply, Theodora explains that they wish to “use art as a vehicle to interest people in the charities which they support”.

Image: DONT WALK

This year, the directors assert that their charity involvement will be more visible than ever. The motivation stems from a desire to “go back and embrace the routes of the project”, reminding themselves and their guests of why DONT WALK was founded and what it sets out to achieve. Indeed, underneath its provocative and mysterious frontage stems a desire to generate real change through charity:

“The charity is our nucleus… the facade of DONT WALK has to communicate with that”.

International in outlook, DONT WALK are again working with their initial charity, the Robin Hood Foundation, which attempts to alleviate problems of poverty in New York City. They have also selected a local charity – Families First based in St Andrews – which works to support children and families concerned with issues of “social isolation and loneliness” here in Fife.

Maria explains the advantage of working with a charity based right on their doorstep, allowing for easy face-to-face communication:

“Our committee are keen to work on a more personal basis with Families First. We recognise that money donated from large events is certainly helpful, but so is volunteering hours of our own time”.

Identifying their privileged position, the committee are looking to utilise the wealth of experience they have gained at St Andrews and put it to good use: to make an impact, share their passions for the arts and inspire others. One of the ways they are planning to do this is by working on activities with children, and are co-operating closely with Families First to further their in-person participation.

Such intimate charity involvement arises after speculation that the show was late in submitting information on its finances to the OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator), earlier this year. Responding to allegations made in The Saint in May, Executive Director Maria Cecília Coelho reassures guests that DONT WALK “continues to work closely with the OSCR and is not at risk” of losing their charitable status.

Image: DONT WALK

Despite this year’s charity involvement being suitably transparent, the theme of the 2019 show will be as secretive as ever – unlike their campus counterparts, DONT WALK are never ones to pre-assert or explicitly reveal their theme. Rather, Creative Director Theodora Chia explains that they are looking to provide the spectator with their own individual experience, welcoming guests to interpret the theme in a way which may or may not align with her initial idea:

Through fashion, choreography, music, and overall experience, we aim to create an all-encompassing impact on our guests. Guests are welcomed to perceive the show with their own individual interpretation,  just as you would with art.”

The theme will be gradually released throughout the year by means of photoshoots, videos, and Vic events as well as the final show.

Theodora goes on to explain that DONT WALK has a different creative approach each year:

“We use previous years to learn from certain organisational mistakes but we will also latch onto the creative theme of the last show and aim to construct a narrative… we feel a strong connection to the idea of progression”.

Image: DONT WALK

DONT WALK is notoriously ‘unbound by rules’ with each year’s creative standpoint being refreshingly cutting-edge and exciting – perhaps attributing to the year-on-year success of the show in gaining international recognition. Latching onto the idea of progress, the directors continue to assert that:

“Change is our humility. We welcome feedback from guests and push ourselves – we are working with many talented minds and are not afraid to venture out of our comfort zone, to build on one year to the next”.

The model selection for this year has been and gone and plans for DONT WALK 2019 are now well underway. Given the open-minded attitude of this year’s committee, we can only wait with anticipation for the show – this year set to take place on Saturday 2nd March 2019 – to draw closer. As a closing statement, Maria remarks that,

“We are really excited for this year… we have a strong committee full of talented people, and it’s going to be an interesting one”.

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